My 9-Year-Old Has Figured Out How to Manipulate Me​ & It's Working

It was Thanksgiving day and I wasn’t supposed to be in the car crying, I was supposed to be enjoying my vacation and patting my full belly and feeling all the wonderful grateful feelings that wash over you after you’ve eaten half a turkey with your loved ones. But there I was, sobbing from the passenger seat of our truck as my husband snuck worried side-glances in my direction and my kids cowered in the backseat and I finally choked out, “It wasn’t supposed to BE like this today! It was supposed to be NICE!”

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Does it all sound a little dramatic? Well, it was. I’m not a big crier but I’d simply had enough — after an entire day of being the peacekeeper and doing my absolute best to keep everyone in a good mood and remind them why holidays are special but they can also be a little intense and that’s okay hey let’s just break out the Scrabble board and WHO WANTS SPARKLING CIDER, I’d been pushed past my limits. My son had just broken my goddamned heart from the back of the truck, where moments before he uttered a phrase seemingly custom-designed to bring me to my knees: “I just thought Thanksgiving was for family time.”

He said that after throwing a spectacular pouting fit over the fact that my husband and I announced that we’d decided to see Mockingjay that evening, and we weren’t going to take him with us. I’d already explained that I wanted to see the movie first and make a decision whether or not I thought it was something he was mature enough to see, but that wasn’t good enough for him. Even though I told him that if I did think it was okay, I’d take him to the movie on another day, he was still in a foul mood.

My son is 9, and he’s recently learned the fine art of emotional manipulation. He knew darn good and well it would pierce me to hear him sigh that he was so sad we weren’t spending quality family time together. Even though, as my husband pointed out, he’d just spent a Thanksgiving family gathering holed up with his cousin, their noses pressed against a smartphone as they giggled over the bleeps and bloops of a game. Even though he watched the Macy’s parade most of the morning instead of engaging with family. Even though we’d spent the entire day together, the day prior, and we had the entire weekend to look forward to.

In truth, he didn’t give one moist fart that I might leave his side for a couple hours that evening — he cared about the fact that I wasn’t letting him come to the movie.

Still, I reacted exactly as he probably hoped I would. Or perhaps I gave him more than he’d bargained for when I wept miserably, dragging a hand across my wet nose and hiccuping that I couldn’t be expected to make everyone happy all of the time, it was more than any human was capable of. He was properly chagrined, and after a lot more discussion, I went to the movie as planned and everything was eventually fine.

(Except for the deer. Did I mention how on the way to the theater, my husband and I passed a fawn who had just been hit by a car and subsequently died a horrible agonizing death right there in front of my eyes? Yeah. That was ... kind of rough. My husband later told me he literally thought he might have to take me home and sedate me.)

I’m used to tantrums, whining, and flat-out yelling — but devious emotional manipulation is a new one on me. It is, as my friend said on Twitter after I vented about my evening, some next-level kid bullshit. I have a feeling I’d better start preparing for more of it, though. As I remember from my own exhausting preteen years, the weaponry in kids’ defense systems only get more destructive as they get older. In fact, I suppose the only true solace is knowing that someday they’ll have children of their own.

Is your kid occasionally capable of playing you like a fiddle?


Image via giarose/Flickr

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